Biofluids can be a goldmine of valuable information about our health. However, most of them require sharp needles, diuretics, or sappy romance dramas (blood, urine, and tears) to produce in useful quantities. One Cincinnati area startup is developing a device that samples a biofluid that everyone produces continuously while sleeping or awake – sweat!
During a recent press tour of the Cincinnati area, we had the opportunity to visit the offices of Eccrine Systems and take a look at prototypes of their “Sweatronics” technology that facilitates the collection and analysis of sweat via a custom-designed wearable. During our sweat-pun-filled tour and briefing, we learned about the potential of sweat monitoring and the engineering and design challenges that Eccrine has faced in developing their device.
While we typically associate sweat monitoring with health factors like hydration and electrolyte balance, it’s actually full of hormones, proteins, and ions. Each person’s sweat composition profile is unique, so much so that one group out of SUNY Albany was able to identify individuals in a research study based exclusively on their sweat. The broad variety of biomarkers contained in sweat opens up many potential health monitoring applications: stress, fertility, metabolism, and infections, to name a few.
The Sweatronics system, which had its origins as a project for the United States Air Force, consists of a module worn around the arm. The module consists of a sweat collection unit that makes contact with the skin, as well as the integrated sensor and electronics.
Dr. Gavi Begtrup, Eccrine’s CEO, shared with us that the sweat collection unit was a significant engineering challenge in itself: not only does the design have to effectively collect small amounts of fluid, but the fluids have to be isolated so things from the outside won’t affect the sensors. The fluids also have to be continuously moving through the sensors to reflect the body’s current state and not pool and intermix with old sweat.
Once the sweat reaches the sensors, it uses electrochemical aptamer-based technology, which essentially involves DNA binding to select biomarkers to quantify a target of choice. The data from the sensors can then be sent via a wireless connection to a remote system, such as a smartphone app.
Dr. Begtrup shared with us that one of the company’s first planned applications will be industrial labor. These jobs often involve hours of standing and heavy lifting, exposure to dangerous conditions, and high stress. The use of the Sweatronics system will help ensure that workers are not dehydrated and stay safe on the factory floor. Begtrup shared that as the technology becomes clinically validated and FDA approved, the company will be looking into several potential medical applications.
More info: Eccrine Systems, Inc…